U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans’ Experience

How can we help veterans navigate the complex landscape of VA benefits?

Partners and Funders

The Challenge

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a wide range of benefits for American veterans, but veterans are not always clear on what benefits they’re entitled to — a problem exacerbated by the time that may elapse between military separation and when veterans first seek to use VA benefits.

During their launch year, our partners at VA’s Veterans Experience Office sought to better understand veterans’ lifelong journey with VA benefits and then to explore how to foster more positive and effective interactions by improving Veterans’ initial ‘onboarding’ experience to VA.

The outcome

With our design partners, we identified opportunities to complement existing efforts and address gaps in the current onboarding experience. The resulting welcome materials and checklists are now available to millions of veterans in the form of the VA Welcome Kit, which is being distributed nationwide in hard copy and is also available for download from VA’s website.

To help veterans answer the question “What can VA do for me?,” we explored new ways to orient both recently separated and long-time veterans to VA benefits and services. We designed and tested components including a welcome letter and other communication materials that give veterans a broad overview of when and how VA might be useful in their lives.

To help veterans answer the question “How can I get help for specific needs?,” we created tools to guide veterans in taking immediate steps to access particular services, such as obtaining primary health care or applying for disability compensation. We tested step-by-step checklists to access a benefit or service, as well as other key pieces of information about eligibility and related programs.

See the document embedded below for a description of research and design activities carried out with and for the Veterans’ Experience Office during their first year. And watch the video below for comments from the Secretary of the VA and veterans on the value of the VA Welcome Kit.


Veterans’ Experience Tools

In addition to the veteran-facing materials described above, we also participated in creating a suite of design tools for use by the newly launched Veterans Experience Office. These tools are intended to be used to drive strategic planning and decision-making across the VA ecosystem, to foster empathy with employees, to build a shared language between veterans and VA, and ultimately help change the way VA offers services to better meets veterans’ needs.


The Journey of Veterans Map

This map outlines common life stages that veterans experience, from pre-service to end of life. In each life stage, the map identifies activities that veterans typically engage in and calls out associated VA services and key “moments that matter” that may have significant impact on veterans’ experiences.




A series of ‘deep dive’ maps take a closer look at key veteran actions. Click on the thumbnails below to see how veterans access mental health and burial services.








VA Customer Personas Report

The VA Customer Personas research report describes 10 common VA personas, including both veterans and their supporters. These design personas are derived from hundreds of ethnographic interviews and combine qualities from the individuals interviewed to represent VA’s service users in an aggregated form. This information serves as a foundation on which to build a more detailed understanding of how veterans’ needs and experiences are variable.

VA Customer Persona Ideation Cards

The ideation cards are a translation of VA’s customer personas into user-friendly ideation or playing cards. The primary use of these cards is to help designers ask idea-provoking questions and generate innovative solutions. The ideation card deck contains four “suits,” including veteran personas, life stages, military experiences, and personal qualities.




Project Team

David Frisco headshot
David Frisco
Katia headshot
Kacia Ng
Hefen Wong headshot
Hefen Wong